Country Band The Cadillac Three Isn't Breaking Down Any Stereotypes — and Having a Great Time Doing It

Rising country band The Cadillac Three is best known for bringing an element of redneck Southern rock to mainstream country. Authentically unapologetic, the trio isn’t into acts: What you see is what you get, and the ripped jeans, long hair, and thick drawls are real.

The Cadillac Three, comprised of Jaren Johnston on lead guitar/vocals, Kelby Ray on lap steel, and Neil Mason on percussion, are all Nashville natives, first meeting in high school. They went on to play with a variety of bands, coming together a decade ago. They first toured under the name the Cadillac Black before switching to The Cadillac Three and forging their characteristic sound about five years ago.

“The history shows on stage,” says Kelby Ray. “We have chemistry. No tracks, just us having a fun time. It’s the real deal. No faking it.”

Johnston’s combination of attitude-filled gritty vocals and all-out shredding leads the trio. The lap steel of Ray, playing through a bass amp, fills in the low side, while sneaking in attention-grabbing riffs that compliment Johnston. Mason rounds out the sound with a commanding presence on drums.

“Part of what makes us different is we play the music we want to,” says Ray. “We’ve stumbled onto something different, especially doing the lap steel. That makes it country, but it’s our own Southern version of that. It's out of the box." It’s so out of the box that they’ve coined a new term for their music — "country fuzz" — which describes a unique sound that draws from rock and roll, Southern rock and country western.

Despite Ray's assertion that the music is against the mainstream grain, The Cadillac Three seem poised to take its sound to the masses. Last month, the band launched its second album, Bury Me in My Boots, released its first single "Drunk Like You" to radio, is currently on tour with country mega-stars Florida Georgia Line, and is preparing to headline its own Don't Forget the Whiskey tour in Europe this fall.

“Do we feel like we’ve made it?" Ray says. "I don’t even know if Florida Georgia Line feels like they’ve made it. But if you’re doing what you love and can pay the bills, you’ve made it. We always want something else and never want to stop reaching. When we went from touring in a van to having our own bus, we felt like we’d made it, but now we dream of what’s next,” he adds.

The Cadillac Three will join Florida Georgia Line, Cole Swindell and Kane Brown at Fiddler’s Green on Thursday, September 22. Fans can expect high-energy whiskey-drinking tunes, as well as heartfelt ballads showing the softer side of these country boys. “If you know anything, you’ll recognize some songs. If you don’t, we’ll grab you with our loud attitude,” Ray says. While laughing, he adds, “It helps if you’re drinkin’. And it helps if you’re smokin’.”

The Cadillac Three opens for Florida Georgia Line, Thursday, September 22, 6:30 p.m., Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre, 303-220-7000.
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